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CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Banyana Ba Style's Journey to Continental Glory Author: N.J HoveMamelodi Sundowns Ladies quest for continental glory is a real football blockbuster. It's like watching a Spike Lee drama, but with soccer and a lot of heart, where a group of women with similar vision get together, and challenge the odds for the attainment of their dreams. It’s not just a journey- it’s a hardcore tale of determination, reclaiming the crown and cementing a place in the corridors of history. Pure Football magic! Remember that heartbreak in last year’s final? Yes! That painful defeat at the hands of AS FAR. The team took it personally, and they decided it was time to rewrite their story. First statement of intent, COSAFA CAF Zonal Qualifiers—where they showed everyone they mean business by conquering every team they faced enroute to claiming the qualification round. Then came the big league, the CAF Women's Champions League, with Coach Jerry leading the charge.
Picture this: every match, like a scene in a movie, the ladies showcasing their skills, grit, and clever game plans. They kept winning, and it wasn't just about scoring goals. The defense turned into a wall—nobody could get past them. Going through the entire tournament without conceding a goal. That’s another one for the history books right there. Rightly so, Coach Jerry, the mastermind, had these ladies on a mission, and they were acing it.
The grand finale, the showdown against SC Casablanca, was like the climax of a blockbuster. Having beaten the same team in the group stages, you would think that familiarity will propel the ladies to let their foot off the gas and relax a little, but not these ladies. They were taking no prisoners this time around. Tension, drama, a nervy goalless first half, and then boom! Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies came out victorious with a deserved 3-0 victory. Refilwe Tholakele, Malebogo Shawe and Assistant Coach, Agnes NkosiThe 2023 CAF Women's Champions League marked the tournament's 3rd edition, a pinnacle of African women's football. Hosted by Ivory Coast from November 5 to 19, 2023, the event brought together the continent's top 8 female football clubs. In the heart of this football spectacle, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies found themselves in a formidable group, setting the stage for thrilling encounters. Their adversaries in the group stages included Moroccan debutants, SC Casablanca, also first timers, JKT Queens from Tanzania, and Athletico Abidjan, who had the home advantage. This lineup promised exciting battles and fierce competition. For Masandawana, it was no easy route, but one embraced with unwavering belief, determination, and tactical prowess. The group stages were not just a test of skill but a proving ground for the resilience and drive that would characterise Sundowns' journey in this prestigious tournament. The Path to victory. First Stop, JKT QueensDate: November 5, 2023 Venue: Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium Scoreline: Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 2 - 0 JKT Queens Scorers: Ramalepe (41'), Tholakele (71')
On the fateful fifth of November at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies kicked off their 2023 CAF Women's Champions League campaign with an enthralling clash against JKT Queens. The stage was set for a compelling duel, and the first half unfolded as a testament to the teams' defensive prowess. However, just four minutes before halftime, the deadlock was shattered in spectacular fashion. Mgcoyi's mesmerising run down the left flank culminated in an audacious cross that eluded the opposition's defense and goalkeeper, finding the waiting Ramalepe. With a composed touch of her right foot, Ramalepe calmly broke the stalemate, sending Sundowns into the break with a one-goal advantage.
The second half witnessed the ladies maintaining their momentum, launching a barrage of attacking plays. Tholakele, embodying prime number 9 instincts, showcased her quick reflexes after her initial attempt was blocked inside the box. Tholakele reacted swiftly by ferociously striking the ball which ricocheted off the top post, into the net in the 71st minute. With a two-goal cushion, Sundowns asserted their dominance, and the match concluded with the scoreline reflecting their well-deserved victory. The opening encounter not only showcased the ladies' skill but also laid the foundation for an exciting journey ahead in the CAF Women's Champions League. Date: November 8, 2023 Venue: Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium Scoreline: Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 1 - 0 SC Casablanca Scorer: Kgadiete (42')
In their second group stage match on November 8, 2023, at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies faced a formidable challenge against SC Casablanca. Newcomers to the tournament but no strangers to victory, SC Casablanca had won qualification by conquering the UNAF Zonal qualifiers. They were not going to be pushovers, standing firm against the third-time qualifiers, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies. The fixture promised a tactical showdown, a tight game where each team sought to assert dominance. As the first half unfolded, the match seemed destined for a goalless deadlock until a moment of brilliance. In the 42nd minute, a precise cross from wingback Ramalepe found Kgadiete's head, and with finesse, she directed it into the goal, securing a crucial lead just before halftime.
The second half saw Sundowns creating opportunities, but the scoreline remained 1-0 until the final whistle. This hard-fought victory meant that Sundowns had secured a spot in the semi-finals, regardless of the outcome of their last group match against hosts, Athletico Abidjan. The ladies had efficiently finished their job early, giving themselves the luxury of breathing room and ample time to mentally prepare for the upcoming semi-final battle. The stage was set for Sundowns to continue scripting their compelling narrative in the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League.
Already having secured their spot in the semi-finals, the match against Athletico Abidjan wasn't just a formality for Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies; it was an opportunity to claim the top spot in the group, solidifying their perfect showing in the group stage. Coach Jerry, exuding confidence, declared in a post-match interview, "We are ready for any team in the semi-final," setting the stage for the next chapter in their journey. The likelihood of facing the team that denied them a second continental trophy the previous year loomed, promising a classic showdown and a chance for redemption.
The first half was a fierce exchange between both teams, with Andile Dlamini making a crucial save, tipping a dipping free kick from the hosts over the bar. Despite the intensity, the first half concluded without any goals. However, the second half saw a dominant performance from Masandawana, securing a resounding 3-0 victory within a span of 13 minutes. Athletico Abidjan, who had gone the larger part of the game without conceding, found themselves on the ropes from minute 77 onwards.
Matoba Cisse initiated the scoring, her cross swerving past the misjudging goalkeeper in the 77th minute. Refilwe Tholakeke, showcasing her prowess as the best shooter around, sealed the deal with two goals in the 85th minute and a measured strike from Chuene Morifi cross in the 89th minute. The message was clear: Sundowns were not here to play games in these knockout stages. Whoever their semi-final opponent would be, they had just received a loud and clear warning that Masandawana meant business. Semi Finals - The Much Awaited Showdown.Date: November 15, 2023 Venue: Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium Scoreline: Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 1 - 0 AS FAR Scorer: Rabale (73')
In the semi-final showdown, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies faced familiar foes, the defending champions AS FAR, who had clinched the title in 2022. The stakes were high—victory would not only secure a spot in the final but also offer a chance to claim the trophy for a record second time. The significance of this game wasn't lost on the Sundowns Ladies; it was an opportunity for redemption and to erase the heartbreak from the previous year.
As expected, the game unfolded with intense tension, both teams relentlessly going at each other without managing to break the deadlock. The decisive moment arrived in the 73rd minute when AS FAR failed to clear the ball from a set piece. Rabale seized the opportunity, reacting swiftly to a loose ball in the box and calmly slotting it into the bottom corner, giving Sundowns the crucial lead.
Aware that one goal might not be sufficient, the ever-reliable Tholakele continued to be a thorn in AS FAR's defense, repeatedly testing the opposing keeper. In the dying minutes of the game, Andile Dlamini showcased her goalkeeping prowess, making a crucial save to preserve the lead and extend the team's clean sheet record. The match concluded with a 1-0 victory for Sundowns, and AS FAR crashed out of the tournament.
For Sundowns Ladies, it was more than a win; it was a sweet moment of payback and a testament to their resilience. The clean sheet and the solitary goal marked their triumph in a great contest, propelling them into the final with a chance to claim the coveted trophy for the record second time. The stage was set for Sundowns to script the final chapter of their remarkable journey in the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League. THE GRAND FINALE Date: November 19, 2023 Venue: Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium Scoreline: Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 3 - 0 SC Casablanca Scorers:Tholakele (21' - Penalty, 78') Boitumelo Rabale (24')
The final showdown saw Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies face familiar adversaries, SC Casablanca, their group stage opponents who had secured the second spot and advanced to the final by winning their semi-final in a penalty shootout, making it a remarkable first appearance in the tournament. The stakes were high as both teams sought to etch their names on the coveted trophy.
Tholakele, with her eyes on the Golden Boot, set the tone in the 21st minute by calmly converting a penalty, propelling Sundowns into an early lead. Just three minutes later, Boitumelo Rabale, continuing her impressive form from the semi-final, doubled the lead. The team entered halftime with a comfortable two-goal cushion, seemingly with one hand on the trophy.
The second half unfolded as a display of Sundowns' strategic prowess and control. With a two-goal lead, the ladies showcased mental agility and maintained focus until the final whistle. Tholakele added another goal in the 78th minute, extending Banyana Ba Style’s lead to 3-0. With this goal, she secured her fifth goal in as many games. The final whistle marked not only the end of the game but the triumphant conclusion to Sundowns' exceptional journey in the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League, where they emerged as champions with style and resilience. Individual Awards Player of the Tournament Boitumelo Rabale
In individual recognition at the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League, Boitumelo Rabale emerged as the standout player, rightfully claiming the prestigious Player of the Tournament award. A linchpin in Sundowns' midfield, Rabale orchestrated the team's exploits with finesse, consistently pulling the strings and showcasing remarkable playmaking skills. Her impact went beyond the statistics, ensuring that every player around her had an easier task on the field. Rabale's crucial goal against AS FAR in the semi-final was instrumental in Sundowns' journey to the final, underlining her ability to deliver when it matters most. Undeterred by the grandeur of the final, Rabale once again found the back of the net. Concluding the tournament with two goals, Rabale's stellar performances not only contributed to Sundowns' triumph but also earned her well-deserved recognition as the Player of the Tournament. Her influence on the pitch became synonymous with Sundowns' success in the competition. Goalkeeper of the tournament Andile Dlamini
The award for Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League found a deserving recipient in Andile Dlamini. A resilient force between the posts, Dlamini showcased an exceptional record of five consecutive clean sheets across five games, amassing an impressive 450 minutes of football without conceding a goal. This remarkable feat followed her outstanding performance in the zonal qualifiers, where she conceded just one goal. Her journey epitomised courage, resilience, and the determination to overcome adversity. Andile's recognition as the Goalkeeper of the Tournament was indeed well-deserved, a testament to her indomitable spirit and unparalleled contribution to Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies' triumphant campaign. Top Goal Scorer Refilwe Tholakele
The coveted title of Top Goal Scorer at the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League went to Masandawana goal machine, Refilwe Tholakele, whose goal-scoring prowess left an indelible mark on the tournament. Tholakele's impressive tally of 5 goals in 5 appearances spoke volumes about her impact on the field. The goal machine notched up 3 crucial goals during the group stages, setting the tone for Sundowns' campaign, and then delivered with two more in the final. Tholakele's scoring spree showcased a combination of power, physicality, intelligent movement, and lightning pace, making her a constant menace for opposition defenses. This achievement marked an important milestone for Tholakele, underscoring her ability to rise to the occasion and contribute significantly to Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies' triumphant journey in the tournament. Fair Play Team of the Tournament Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies added another accolade to their impressive list by securing the Fair Play Team of the Tournament award at the 2023 CAF Women's Champions League. This recognition was a testament to the team's unwavering professionalism on the pitch, serving as yet another piece of evidence showcasing their meticulous preparation, unwavering focus, and clear goals the troops had for the tournament. A Shining Star on the Continental Stage- Boitumelo RabalePlayer of the Tournament, Boitumelo Rabale, shared her thoughts on her exceptional performance in the Champions League and Masandawana's historic achievement.1. How does being named Player of the Tournament contribute to Masandawana’s pursuit of African success? Boitumelo: "Being named Player of the Tournament is a significant recognition. I see my role as contributing to Masandawana’s pursuit of African success by consistently giving my best on the field. This individual achievement is not just about me; it represents the collective effort of the entire team."
Boitumelo's exceptional skills and leadership on the pitch have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in Masandawana's triumph. 2. In the theme of chasing African success, how has the team’s collective spirit and determination played a role in achieving this historic milestone? Boitumelo: “The team spirit has been amazing. The positive energy and unity among the girls make playing for each other a joy. We are a united force, and that's why we are champions. The collective spirit is our strength.”
Team unity and positivity have been the driving forces behind Masandawana’s success, creating an unbreakable bond among the players.3. As a player, what aspects of your game or mindset did you consciously work on to excel on the continental stage? Boitumelo: “I focused on maintaining a positive mindset, especially during challenging moments. Every difficulty was for the team, and I knew that positivity would lead us to victory. On the pitch, I worked on consistency and giving my best in every game.”
Boitumelo's dedication to personal and team development shines through her conscious efforts to enhance her mental resilience and on-field performance.4. Beyond the pitch, how do you hope this achievement inspires aspiring young female footballers in South Africa and across the continent? Boitumelo: “I hope our achievement serves as inspiration and brings hope to young female footballers. We carry a responsibility to inspire, and I want every aspiring player to believe that they can achieve greatness. This is just the beginning.”
Boitumelo Rabale sees her success as a beacon of hope, aiming to inspire the next generation of female footballers across the continent.The Goal machine, Refilwe TholakeleTop Goal Scorer, Refilwe Tholakele, shared her thoughts on her stellar performance and the journey to African success.1. Congratulations on being the top goal scorer! How does this individual achievement contribute to the team’s overall success? Refilwe: “This individual achievement contributed positively to my team's overall success. Scoring those goals was not just about personal success; it was about contributing to the collective triumph of Masandawana.”
Refilwe Tholakele's goals were instrumental in Masandawana's path to becoming champions, showcasing her crucial role in the team's success.2. In the context of chasing African success, how did you maintain focus and determination throughout the tournament? Refilwe: “I want to be the best of all time; this has been my everyday motive, which kept me focused and determined throughout the tournament. It's about chasing dreams and making an impact on the African stage.”
Refilwe's unwavering focus and determination reflect her ambition to leave a lasting legacy in African women's football.3. Can you share a standout moment from the Champions League that encapsulates the team’s journey towards continental triumph? Refilwe: “Every time we scored became a standout moment. The positive team spirit and the joy of playing for each other were evident in those moments. At the end, we emerged as winners, and that's the culmination of our journey.”
Refilwe Tholakele cherishes every goal as a testament to the team's journey and their ultimate victory in the Women's Champions League.4. Looking ahead, how do you envision Masandawana continuing to chase and achieve success on the African stage? Refilwe: “For us, it's to inspire and give hope. We carry the responsibility of being champions, and I'm convinced that Masandawana will continue succeeding and achieving more on the African stage. The journey doesn’t end here.”
Refilwe expresses a strong belief in Masandawana's future success, emphasising the team's responsibility to inspire and pave the way for more triumphs. Coach Jerry Tshabala: Architect of Masandawana's Historic TriumphIn a power-packed article, we delve into the mind of Coach Jerry Tshabala, the mastermind behind Mamelodi Sundowns' extraordinary victory in the CAF Champions League. His strategic prowess and the team's dominance, scoring 10 goals in 5 games without conceding, not only secured the trophy but etched their names in football history. 1. Leading Masandawana to a historic CAF Champions League win is extraordinary. How does this achievement resonate with you and the team? Coach Jerry: "Yeah look first thing first, there's lots of hard work being put behind the scenes not only by myself but the entire Mamelodi Sundowns family such as management, technical team members, and the players. What resonates with this success is just unity amongst the entire team and the willingness to achieve greater things..."2. African football often faces unique challenges. How have you adapted your coaching strategies to overcome these challenges and propel the team to continental triumph? Coach Jerry: "Indeed African football faces lots of challenges, but as a coach, you need to adapt to any challenges coming your way. Watching lots of football has helped me immensely because I learned a few strategies that, at some point, propelled the team to be victorious..."3. Developing a winning mentality is crucial. Can you share specific techniques or rituals you implement to instill this mindset within the team? Coach Jerry: "Nothing special, I just motivate the team to try and do good in each game we play. Sometimes I ask the girls to read a motivational book and we come and discuss it together. It helps in terms of how they see the importance of winning in their own way..."4. As a coach, what role do cultural influences play in shaping your coaching philosophy, and how does this contribute to the team’s identity? Coach Jerry: "At Mamelodi Sundowns, we got our own culture in terms of how we want football to be played, but I like the fact that you are encouraged not to shy away from your own philosophy as a coach and try to combine the two to achieve the Club's vision..."5. The theme of unity is powerful in African culture. How do you foster a sense of unity and togetherness within the team, and why is it integral to your coaching approach? Coach Jerry: "Unity is something we preach about on a daily basis at training. The girls love playing for one another, and the games we play at training foster unity among the team. Unity goes hand in hand with trust..."6. Coaching women as a man involves navigating gender dynamics. How do you ensure equality, respect, and understanding within the team, and what positive impacts have you observed? Coach Jerry: "Fortunately enough for me, I started coaching with male counterparts, and that really made things easier for me to adjust into the space of women's football. I treat all players fairly, and it yields positivity in the team as I treat them equally without judging them."7. Beyond the pitch, how does Masandawana contribute to the broader community, and why is it essential to intertwine football success with social impact? Coach Jerry: "Yeah, look, we got lots of social responsibilities in terms of giving back to our community. Some of our players, like Rhoda Mulaudzi, have projects like Boots for Africa, where they donate soccer boots to young up-and-coming players..."8. The journey to success is often marked by resilience. Can you share a moment where the team showcased remarkable resilience, and how did it shape their path to victory? Coach Jerry: "There are lots of those moments, and I can't single out one, but a few stand out. The loss against Green Buffaloes in the previous COSAFA Cup finals. One would really think it has demoralized the winning mentality in the team, but guess what? The same year we went all the way to play in the finals of CAF Champions League..."9. Masandawana’s attacking philosophy has been a key to success. Could you elaborate on the principles that drive this attacking style and how it aligns with the African spirit? Coach Jerry: "Not that easy to instill this philosophy, but the main principles are self-belief, dedication, commitment, and discipline. All these principles put together are what drive us to succeed. This really aligns well with our African spirit because, as Africans, if we believe, commit ourselves, are disciplined, and dedicated, we can achieve anything we hope for..."10. As a mentor to the players, what life lessons do you emphasize, and how do you envision these lessons influencing their journeys beyond football? Coach Jerry: "Look, not an easy one, but I always try to show them that football is like life. In football, there are three results: win, lose, and a draw. So when you look into those three results, a win will resemble exciting times in your life, while a draw will mean things are just okay or fair. Then losing will resonate through tough times in your life..."11. Looking forward, what aspirations do you have for Masandawana in both domestic and continental competitions, and how do you plan to sustain this level of success? Coach Jerry: "Yeah, looking forward, we just aspire to keep on working hard and winning all the trophies that are at our exposure. We can only sustain this level by working hard and refreshing the team with a few youngsters who will add energy into the team and who are still hungry for success..."12. Coach Jerry, your journey is inspiring. For young aspiring coaches on the continent, what advice would you give as they navigate their paths in the world of football? Coach Jerry: "To the young and upcoming coaches, they must just keep on working hard, believe in their abilities, and have passion for the game. They must also learn to accept situations that challenge them and take them like tomorrow's lessons..."Banyana Ba Style celebrate their second CAF victoryWhat a Journey it was! These remarkable women are not just making strides in South African women's football; they are becoming architects of a new narrative for women's football across the entire continent. With each match, the ladies are contributing to the dream of girls everywhere who aspire to play football at the highest level. Their journey is not just about winning titles but about inspiring a generation and paving the way for a future where girls can dare to dream and pursue their passion for football with the same fervour and determination. Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are indeed crafting a legacy that extends beyond the boundaries of the pitch.
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